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Hamlin’s return inspires ‘Bluder’s Bunch’

BY EVELYN LAU | NOVEMBER 19, 2009 7:21 AM

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“No Regrets. No Excuses” read the back of JoAnn Hamlin’s shirt Wednesday night when Iowa hosted No. 19 Kansas in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

It is also the mentality she brings to the Iowa women’s basketball team.

Despite a 66-55 loss to the Jayhawks, the Hawkeyes still found a cause for celebration.

The game marked the first time Hamlin was able to watch her teammates this season after being admitted to the hospital with a severe, career-threatening blood clot in her right leg on Nov. 8.

The 6-3 center was in the intensive-care unit for more than a week before being released on Wednesday. However, Iowa’s lone senior was in good enough shape to make a special appearance for her teammates along the sideline.

“It was fun to have JoAnn back,” Iowa head coach Lisa Bluder said with a smile. “She got out of the hospital at about noon [on Wednesday], and she was at pregame meeting at three o’clock. I knew she was feeling right — back to the old Jo, not missing a pregame meal.”

With Hamlin’s absence, freshman Morgan Johnson has seen considerable playing time at the center position. Despite not being around, the senior has become a mentor for Johnson.

The two have developed a strong friendship.

“She texted me the night before and was like, ‘I’m going to be at the game tomorrow,’ and I was just so excited,” Johnson said. “Seeing her just makes me feel more comfortable and more confident. It makes me want to play better. She always pushes me to play harder and motives me in ways other people can’t. “I would definitely call her one of my best friends.”

Hosting a top-20 team early in the season mixed in with Hamlin’s return was a motivating factor for the Hawkeyes. The Douglas, Kan., native attended Kansas State her freshman year before transferring to Iowa.

Her teammates were hoping to get the upset win knowing she would be on the bench watching.
“I think everybody tried to go out, and we never really gave up,” junior guard Kachine Alexander said. “That was for her. It didn’t matter that we were down. We just kept pushing.”

Perhaps what was missed most about Hamlin was her senior leadership. After Iowa missed its first nine shots at the start the game, the Jayhawks built an early 11-0 lead.

When Iowa called a time-out, Hamlin limped over to the huddle and offered some encouraging words to her teammates.

“When we were down 11-0, she was the one who said, ‘Come on guys. We aren’t this bad of a team. We can still play with them,’ and we stepped it up,” Johnson said. “We do things for Jo because she is our leader, and we miss her a lot. Her confidence and her vocal leadership are just really great for us.”


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